2007 SLP Curriculum Guide #26 Using the Pen Tool
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In this guide we will explore using the Pen Tool. This guide assumes you have some basic knowledge of using nodes and the edit context menu. The guide is basically a set of exercises to explore the different options when the pen tool is used to draw lines and other shapes.

This guide will not teach you how to draw objects as I am no artist. However, if you learn to use the basic features of the Pen Tool, along with the previous guides (and future guides on using the Text Tool) you will develop great techniques for using Vectors to draw.

Each exercise, beginning with very simple and basic steps, will provide a progressive use of the Pen Tool (and particular Pen Mode) and its options. Take your time, explore, experiment and have fun.


As a simple line, click the start position and either click again at the position to end the line or just drag the line. Drag cursor over the first node drawn and see it says start. Drag cursor over last node drawn and see it says end.
To add a node to the line use the Control Key and position the cursor at the location on the line and when you see +add at the cursor just click the cursor to set the line.
To manipulate the node(s) you may first have to right click and then select 'Edit || Select None'. Then you can click on a node to manipulate and drag it to a new position. When you add a node to the middle of the line, then activate it (click on it) and drag it down, and if in your Properties dialogue you have 'Fill' selected you will see the fill within the triangular shape you have drawn.
In this example first 'Edit || Select All'. Then click on Node Type || Symmetric. Your triangular shape now becomes curved at the 'V' section. You can now manipulate the nodes at the ends and middle to create different looking shapes. Next (illustration not shown) click on 'Select All', then 'Node Type' and select Convert to line to again create a triangular shape.
This example illustrates how to join nodes. First shape the middle node as a 'Symmetric' type so that a bottom curve is developed. Then find and highlight the 'end' or 'start' node. Click and drag to the other node (start or end) and when you see 'join' show at your cursor release your mouse button to join those two nodes together. Then you can manipulate the shape with the handles of the remaining nodes.

The last illustration of a smile like shape was used and each of the above illustrations use some of the Transform Selected Nodes Options.
  1. I added a node to the bottom of the smile curve. Then I manipulated each of the remaining nodes starting with the bottom node and rotating the arms completely to obtain a looping. The other nodes I just changed the angle and position of the node arms and node.
  2. I first selected all nodes of #1 by double clicking a a single node. I then use Edit || Duplicate and then moved the duplicated shape over. I finally used Transform || Mirror.
  3. I duplicated #2 following the above steps but use Flip rather than Mirror.
  4. I used #3 and first duplicated it, then moved it down slightly and finally used Edit || Reverse Contour.
  5. I again used #3, and used Edit || Duplicate and Offset and then Reversed Contour. I also had to reset my Transform Options to values of +10 for X and Y.
  6. I Duplicated #3 and then use Edit || Skew Y with a rather large value for Y. I then used the pick tool to make the selection a bit smaller.


Numbers 3 and 4 illustrate the cutout result of duplicating/rotating and using Reverse Contour. In the Edit context menu there are other items you might explore. You can Merge (delete and reshape a shape), Break (cause at a node selected the line to break with nodes at each end of the break. Close is used when you highlight two adjacent but not connected nodes (highlighted by using the Shift key held down and selecting the nodes wanted).

Take time now and explore working with the Line Mode by creating lines, changing the nodes types to symmetric and other types and create some different shapes. Work with adding and joining nodes. Explore using the Edit context menu, the Node Types menu and the Transform Selected Nodes menu. With the playing with these menu items and shapes you create you will develop a very good understanding of how to use these items with all pen modes.

In the next guide we will look at the Point to Point or Bezier Curve Tool.

BEZIER (Point to Point) and FREEHAND

The Pen modes of Point to Point or Bezier and Freehand will work with the same Edit context menu items as discussed above. However, the shapes drawn are different with the Bezier creating curves and Freehand of course creating freehand shapes.

The point to point or bezier mode will create a curve. When you first click a point drag it to reveal the handles. Dependent upon how you move the handles will determine how the curve at its end will appear.
When 'Connect Segments' is checked one can continue to draw new curves by just clicking where they want the next node. In this fashion one can create from simple to complex curves and shapes. HINT: When wanting to edit the shape first click on the EDIT icon so you do not inadvertantly add unwanted segments. Remember to drag the cursor just a bit each time a node is added to set the handles (make them visible).

This illustration also shows that dragging an end node to a start node one can JOIN the segments.

This example is a freehand drawing. Initially, until finished, the line drawn appears quite jagged. However when done the line will smooth out to curves. In the Options Palette one sets the number and spacing of curves by setting traking to a value (low is many while high is fewer). One can also manipulate or refine the curve by selecting a node and moving the handles around a bit.
This example takes the freehand drawn above, duplicates it and then Contracts it. Then set the Edit || Reverse Contour.


  1. As stated many times, just experiment with the modes and the options.
  2. After drawing use the EDIT to not set additional unwanted nodes.
  3. If more than one shape is drawn on a canvas, to active all the nodes of that shape double click on a node in that shape. If you use Edit || Select All you will select all nodes on the canvas for all shapes.
  4. Try Adding Nodes to refine a shape (Depressing the Control Key and then clicking on a line).
  5. Try Selecting just two or three nodes (Depressing the Shift Key and clicking on a line). Then manipulate that editing box to see how you can vary the shape.
  6. When you try something and it doesn't seem to work, see if you need to be in the Edit Mode.
  7. Use 'Undo' (Ctrl + Z) to go back to an earlier step.
  8. Use the Properties Dialogue to set the Fill.
  9. Work with the Edit || Close, Break, Merge items to become familiar with their operations.
  10. Don't forget to try out the Knife Mode which break a line and sets separated nodes where you cut.
  11. If you see what looks like a multifaceted star at a node that means you actually have two separate nodes one over the other, but they are not Joined together. You can use your cursor to grab and move one of those nodes.
  12. Enjoy.


  1. When completing a tutorial or series of tutorials, and having placed them upon your web page, post in the SLP Forum your completed work using this layout:
    • Name or Screen Name.
    • Web Site URL.
    • Version of PSP using.
    • List of Tutorials completed.
  2. Post your Work:
    • List what you did, feature, options used, values.
    • Indicate steps taken and results.
    • Indicate things you found interesting, worthwhile and any other comments.
  3. Comment on any particular techniques you used or discovered, any particular results you found perhaps by accident and any ideas you have for creating a particular result.
  4. Post any questions and comments in the SLP Forum.

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